He’s now a reality TV star, an elite model who will proceed to Season Two of the Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency show, which has an enormous cult following as the most popular show ever aired on the Oxygen cable network.
But lanky Christopher Henson Jones grew up in Falls Church like any other kid. With his family home near the intersection of Idyllwood and Friendship, Chris Jones attended McLean High School where he maintained a pretty low profile and graduated in 1999.
After a stint at George Mason University, he nailed down his Bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Maryland in 2004.
It was time to enter the world of full-time employment, and he didn’t like what he ran into. He sold advertising door to door for a daily newspaper before he’d had it.
He took off for Hollywood. Staying with his best friend from high school there, his idea was to launch a career on the marketing side of the entertainment or sports industry.
But he wasn’t having much luck finding work and was perusing Craig’s List online when he saw an ad for an open call to try out as a model for a TV show.
It immediately drew his attention because he wasn’t a total stranger to such work.
He’d gone to New York in 2001 to visit his sister, who worked for a department store there and urged him to try out for a male fashion model search. He entered for a weekend, and came in runner-up. He signed on with an agency then, but nothing much showed for it.
He did learn, however, that he had “the look” that they want in the fashion industry. “It’s tall, thin, and gangly with sharp features,” he said in an interview at his hometown newspaper, the Falls Church News-Press, last week. He attributed his “exotic look” to having a Philippino mother and Irish father.
He overlooked mentioning his eyes, large, set wide apart and hazel green, framed by dark lashes and brows, big into sustaining eye contact. They’re a feature that comes across more strikingly in person than when you see him on TV. And in person his smile is in abundance, wide and friendly, even though in front of cameras, models are supposed to look pouty.
He is downright thin, despite working out at heavy lifting four or five times a week. He used to be 140 pounds, but his current 160 pounds still looks very thin distributed over his 6 ft. 2 in. frame.
“We’re supposed to be like clothes hangers,” Chris said of fashion models, male and female alike. “The clothes are supposed to drape off of us.”
In Hollywood, he said, fashion is more commercialized, and more muscular, well-built models help sell clothing with their looks. But in New York and in Europe, where high fashion in its own right is the priority, the tall, lanky, angular look works best.
Chris knew all this in his head when he showed up for the open call in Hollywood about this time last year.
It was like the tryouts for “American Idol,” except that there was no singing involved, he said. Just standing there and maybe bantering a little with the judges.
In this case, there was really only one judge, Janice Dickenson, herself, a former model superstar who many considered over the hill. She had appeared on the series, “Surreal Life,” with a cast of celebrities past their prime, and a wide range of TV talk shows, including with Regis and Kathy Lee and Howard Stern.
Dickenson was preparing for a major new step in her 50-year-old life, a combination reality TV show and new business launch. Oxygen network signed her on for a season of “The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency,” a series of half-hour segments where Janice selects a stable of models with potential, works them into shape, and with her business partner launches her agency, seeking real life business opportunities to provide models. It evolved into one of the more fascinating looks into the nature of a business that provides literally thousands of modeling images that we see routinely on TV and in magazines.
Dickenson sports a personality two or three degrees wackier than Joan Rivers, ruthlessly demanding of her prospective models but endearing at the same time. After all, she’d been through it all, and operates from personal experience.
In response to her first open call for models, over 500 lined up outside Dickenson’s office in Hollywood. Chris Jones was among them.
“They’d herd us in about 10 at a time,” he told the News-Press. “She’d look us over and point, ‘You, you and you.’” That was all there was to it, he said. In his group, he was the only one she chose.
As the numbers were pared down this way, Chris kept making the cut. As he began to chat briefly with Dickenson, he said that their personalities “seemed to click.”
"We seem to have a similar outlook, a similar approach to life,” he said. “She could sense that.”
As the filming of the series commenced last fall, Dickenson kept trolling for new models. In all, she went through a few thousand prospects.
Meanwhile, the series showed her struggling with decisions over which to keep and which to part with. She also demanded her models learn to walk a certain way and maintain a certain demeanor.
As one of her company’s first genuine contracts came through, she had to choose which of her existing stable of models would fly to New York to model during an exclusive reception held by an elite underwear company to unveil a new design.
She also took some to Las Vegas, where she got crazy and decided to go for a swim in a fountain wearing an expensive one-of-a-kind dress. It almost killed the business relationship between her company and the dress’ designer.
Chris said that some of the incidents, including the clashes, on the show were very real, and others might have been a tad contrived. (He was not on the trip to Las Vegas).
The long and the short of it is that when it came down to the final episode of Season One, Dickenson pared her existing roster of models down to the bare bones, down to only six, three men and three women.
Guess what? Falls Church’s very own Chris Jones made the cut! After some 3,000 had applied, Chris was one of only six who survived the first season, and will be on the show for Season Two.
Filming of the second season begins next week in Hollywood. Chris’ hiatus over the summer in Falls Church will end on Monday when he catches a plane to the left coast.
The only downside to all this, he said, is that he’s signed on with the Dickenson agency, and therefore has had to turn down numerous other offers. Therefore, the months between the filming of the first and second seasons of the show left him having to sit on his hands.
Now 25, Chris says he thinks he’s got plenty of years left to build his career. “I’m 25, but they say I look 20,” he said. “That means I could have a decade to make my mark.”